tv The Point With Ari Melber MSNBC May 21, 2017 2:00pm-4:01pm PDT
ameriprise hi, i'm ari melber. welcome to "the point." the big story this weekend, a powerful person of interest inside the white house as the russia inquiry picks up steam. meanwhile, president trump takes the world stage with a promise not to lecture. how did he do? and a special look at the no apology president. it is bad for america to have a leader that never says i'm sorry? now our lead story is this russia inquiry, a topic president trump avoided in saudi arabia tonight but which is heating up against two revelations. a white house official is a person of interest in the fbi inquiry while trump's own words continue to cause problems. he reportedly assured the
russians that he could tamp down pressure from this fbi inquiry by firing jim comey who he also called a nut job. this is an odd fight for the president to pick. comey announcing heading into this weekend that he will now testify in public under oath after memorial day. let's get right it to with my guests. david, i kept a lead short because tonight i think people know the big stories and they're still sinking in. the notion that after mike flynn is ousted and paul maniford left and other officials didn't make night the administration there is still someone, and i want to be careful, we don't know who, but someone who works at the white house who is a person trf in the inqui -- person of interest in the inquiry. >> that can mean a lot of
things. you're the lawyer here, not me. this may be a target investigation. this may be being looked at for criminal conduct. and also there is other activity but also possible counter intelligence activity which could be contacts between people associated with trump and russian intelligence or russian agentses or go betweens. that may not be illegal but it would be wrong. we have no real information about who this person of there tr is or why he's so interesting to the fbi. but what we do know, the other big point you mentioned, is donald trump put himself into the fire whether it comes to possible obstruction of justice charges by telling the russians he got rid of comey to get rid of the investigation. that's the biggest problem he
faces at the moment. >> out of the frying pan and into the fryer. did you ever see anything quite like which this when you were at dn snichlt. >> we-- dni? >> this is an extraordinary series of cases or investigations. and i used to work on counter intelligence investigations when i was back at the justice department as well. what i would say on the person of interest point is that's an unusual phrase to be used in a counter intelligence context. there is attorney general guidelines that govern how these types of investigations take place. and person of perfect just isn't a phrase in the guidelines. >> right. as a criminal inquiry, it is typically someone that the investigators see as either being close to a criminal situation, having very key information or potentially becoming a subject or a target. it is, as you negotiation not defined in the statute. it's not faz as if we have a wrn definition in this context. but what do you think is the best thing for the trump white
house to do given all this? >> they have a wide range of things they need to do. part of that has to do with the governing side of things. part of that has to do with individual people, obviously worried about their potential criminal liability or involvement in matters. but there say whole separate issue with respect to their governance role. and that's very different from what individuals in the white house might feel about individually and how they have to potentially froeprotect themselves. >> you're referring to the idea that beyond protecting themselves with their joshgsz peop jobs, they'd rather not be fired but protect themselves to potential legal exposure is what i say you to mean. >> right. there is on going investigations. according to the reports that we've seen every day really, there are investigations that
touch very closely to the white house. on the person of interest point, the article itself that used that phrase was unanimously sourced. we don't know where that phrase is coming from, whether it's coming from law enforcement itself or whether it's coming from some other individual that is in the orbit of these investigations. >> sarah, you said something that is sourced, nut job which apparently donald trump is very comfortable with using in discussions with foreign officials about imcomey. seems to undercut any semblance of the white house to argue they had a serious process here. listen to john mccain's response. >> with the appointment of mr. mueller, we're now at that stage of a scandal. >> he was crazy, a real nut job. i faced great pressure because of russia. that's taken off." how do you read that, sir? >> i don't read it except i
don't -- i'm almost speechless. >> you know, sarah, john mccain like so many of white house work in the media are rarely speechless. he likes the media. he does a lot of television interviews wlach int interviews. what do you make of him being speechless? >> obviously they have to have a more subinstantive response. i think it's important to note that senator john mccain is never a fan of president trump. he's a frequent critic. you wouldn't expect him to have president trump's back at a moment like this even when the supporters are getting nervous about how quickly and forceful the scandals hit the white house. i think "the new york times" revelation about president trump's comey comments calling him a nut job saying that his removal somehow relieved a type of political pressure on his administration is probably the more significant of the two stories that we're talking about, the person of interest label is so vague. it could be nothing. we have no idea.
there is not enough context in that article. here we have a clear cut allegation that the swhous not denying. they're not denying that president said the pressure is being taken off with comey's removal. they're not denying he removed comby. nour we're goi now we're going to hear from the fbi director to potentially subinstant y substantiate some of these. >> do you think he doesn't realize these are documents meetings that can leak out or do you think he doesn't care? >> i think that this is the most significant internal leaks that we've seen from a meeting like this. so maybe it was something he didn't realize was a possibility. i mean there could have been a white house stenographer there taking notes. i don't know this was a direct transcript. that was an argument that maybe the comments were left out. maybe he wasn't even aware his words could leak out. you can bet that president might watch his words a little more
carefully now knowing that anything he says in some of the private meetings could be leaked to the media. >> you could bet that. you might lose money. but you're technically right. you could bet. that sarah and carrie, thank you very much. david corn stays us with on "the point." the president made the debut on the global stage speaking to the muslim world and the president was subdued. there was no bombastic talk about barring muslims. there was a boiler plate american policy conversation. >> a better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and drive out the extremists. drive them out. drive them out of your places of worship. drive them out of your communities. drive them out of your holy land and drive them out of this earth.
>> he also sounded down right mainstream or not unlike other american presidents by drawing a clear line between terror groups and the wider world of islam. >> murderers and falsely invokes the name of god it should be an insult to every person of faith. terrorist dozen not worship god. they worship death. >> in the 40 minute speech, the president did not mention the human rights abuses by some of the arab countries in attendance. adam shift was all over that this morning. >> i was struck about it suggestion and i think say broader element that they're going to ee emphasize issues of human rights that what countries do within their own boundaries. >> i it this way awe dress the
human rights and women's issues is to improve the conditions in the region. today conditions in the region are under a lot of stress because of the threat of terrorism and the tlahreat that iran poses. >> that is a legitimate observation. it is also a false choice can you defeat terror and advocate human rights within the same region. joining me now, laura rosen and director of the arabia foundation. you're an expert on. this you followed all this. was this speech typical had it been given by any other president? >> it was untypical for donald trump as you're saying. my mother called me from kansas city after the speech and thought it was a good speech, much more tolerant than we heard donald trump being, you know, calling islam one of the great faiths which is not a tone of the beginning of his administration. >> so in that respect, would you say this was a good sign or just words? >> you know, there's a tension
in the administration you could see between trump's advisors and between those who want to make trump reach, you know, be more normal president. mcmaster, the national security adviser, his deputy deana powell and jared kushner, you know, framing the speech trump going to saudi arabia and israel and rome to reaching out to all the great religions to try to unify people against terrorism. and so they were very much, i think, trying to normalize trump and make him look like a more toll ran tolerant american leader. >> do you view this speech as positive for u.s. foreign policy in the region? >> hi, ari. yes, absolutely. the speech was definitely constructive and much more p positive. even more so for a broader context as was previously mentioned. this was a more of a visit of the traditional sites and having
saudi arabia at the first site to visit given that it is the mecca madina is there. this was a signal to the american public as well. muslims are not the enemy. saudi arabia is not the enemy. and they're the allies in the fight against terrorism. >> trump aides feel very frustrated that when they do things like this, they don't feel that they get any kind of embrace or support from the media. of course that, is not the media's job, or from the set of critics in the united states. i hear from trump aides that we backed off the muslim ban from the campaign. then we retooled the travel ban under pressure. now we give this speech trying to welcome muslim american people into the dialogue. and foreign muslims into a conversation about terror. and they say if obama gave the speech it would have been cheered and gets nothing.
what do you say to that? >> i think it's president trump's first 100 days. i think he's still getting footing. i think his narrative has shifted as he's found out more about the complexities of what's happening domesticicly aally an abroad. >> what do you think the action should be to deliver today? >> they're talking about having a terrorism finance center. a lot of this stuff for those of us who have been following previous administrations, sounds like there is a lot of couldn't neutral with the obama administration and it feels like the trump people think they're inventing something wholly new, grand alliance against isis is something the obama people did as well. and the saudis are talking about secretary up a center to combat extremism, mainly a digital initiative which sounds like there is couldn't neutral from
what the obama administration is doing it. >> old wine, new bottle you've ever seen. thank you both. now up next, i'm going to talk to a former clinton white house official who says criminal inquiry noo inquiries into the white house always turn into whether there is a smoking gun. also, if trump won't say sorry or accept responsibility noirz words zshgs tham pa for his words, does that affect him? an snl series financeally was a reunion of familiar characters. ♪ hallelujah >> i'm not giving up because i didn't do anything wrong.
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donald trump's foreign trip comes against tremendous bad news at home. reports he bad mouthed jim comey in a meeting with russian officials, the washington reports confirming and they say the white house sohas a person interest in the russian probe and at the doj briefing this week they left with the conclusion this is a criminal investigation. >> i think the shot to the body is now considered a criminal investigation. and congress' ability to conduct investigations of all thing, russia is severely limited in an appropriate fashion. >> now this is bad news for the trump white house. but not automatically for donald trump. now that's because even in a criminal investigation the doj does not typically focus on the
president. and congress tends to want a smoking gun before it flexes the constitutional muscle to patrol any high crimes. here's how former clinton white house official explains the point in the nixon context. nixon defenders asked, where is the smoking gun? a recording made on june 23rd, 1972, six days after the arrest is the smoking gun tape shattered nixon's remaining support. he argues comey scheduled to testify in a week is holding a potential smoking gun. now comey's new allegation is simpler, blunter, more brutal and more plainly illegal than most other evidence. joining me now is michael waldman, former chief speech require to presidewriter to pre clinton. is there a smoking gun here? >> the smoking gun for nixon came two years later and then he order the cover-up from the very beginning. here trump's own words and the
words memorialized by comey in his memos show that he certainly tried to shut down if it's true the investigation of general flynn and he told the russians that he had -- felt the pressure was off because the nut job, the head of the fbi, had been fired. in other words, we're pretty early in the scandal at least in the public part of it and there's a lot of reason to see that whether it's a criminal matter or not, there seems to have been an effort to obstruct justice and to shut down the investigation. it is important that we learn all the facts and not just let this kind of this turn into a criminal investigation alone. >> does it mat that's right smoking gun that you're talking about right now was more likely reside at the fbi as an external account and not as and the nixon case as internal evidence from the white house itself? >> it was crazy to know that nixon taped his own
incriminating conversations. here president trump goes on lester holt and says the same thing. i think the real question, you should never lose sight of the two overlapping xanldals here. one is the fact that a hostile foreign power intervened in our election in an illegal way to help one of the candidates. what is behind that, the collusion there and then the other is the more standard thing we often see in these kinds of things now that there is an investigation underway. they're trying to squash or quash the investigation. >> right. and your colleagues in the white house viewed these investigation that's were occurring about bill clinton as wholly illegitimate and yet they were stressful. how do you contrast that from tru trump aides? >> bill clinton had people looking at one or another part
of his life from the beginning of his presidency. when you have a conspiracy prosecutor, it started with a look into land deals in arkansas and that special prosecutor was still around when the allegations around his affair with monica lewinsky and sexual misconduct came up years later. it can be tremendously debi debilitating for a white house or not. what most people in any white house need to do in a circumstance like that is always tell the truth. always do what you think is right. and have the lawyers deal with this stuff. but this white house everybody seems to travel in packs. th they all have to be in the room with trump. there isn't much of a lower level staff in place in front of the government. so i don't know that it's going to actually make it from their perspective easier to function. >> mukal waichael waldman, than
very much. i want to broaden it out to our panel. michael, first your reaction to everything michael waldman just laid out. >> i think the devil is in the details. we simply don't have enough information right now to suggest that trump either, one, committed obstruction of justice or, two, that he knew of anything that some of the people from his campaign may or may not have done with the russians. my impression here is that trump is behaving -- this may be a problem, but he's behaving like anybody else would that believes they're innocent and getting a raw deal. >> really? like anybody else would? >> yeah. i think he's saying things like, hey, i'm innocent or you need to
lay off here. now i don't think that's appropriate for the president. >> let me put you on that point. >> you need to come port your snefl self in a better way. >> would anybody else in this situation go to the subjects of the investigation, the representatives of a foreign add v -- adversarial government and brief them. >> i haven't heard that he briefed the russians on an investigation in real time. >> the counter intel operation sop. "the new york times" is reporting that he is telling them about the investigation and how it's going to be taking the pressure off and the guy he fired in charge of it is a nut job. >> mentioning that off the cuff is, as i said, he should comport himself better and as the president. i don't think that constitutes briefing them on the investigation. i don't think he knows the status of the investigation. >> spoken like a lawyer. i'm not going down the rabbit hole of the word briefing.
>> first of all, a lawyer should say stop tweeting. seriously. i that i is a very good step. what i'm interested in seeing is really understand what is going to happen to those congressmen who now have to do two things. they're going home and hoelldin their own town halls. they have to take the temperature of the water back at home before they decide. stay with trump. decide that you're going to vocally be against him. it's really critical. and with the health care debates sizzling under all that, i think it's an interesting time to see what the next steps are going to be. i think it's not -- it is going to be debilitating. michael talked about how it doesn't have to be debilitating. you see a white house where a front page story again goes back into something that they're not interested in having covered, it's a distraction. it is debilitating. it is hugely problematic. and seeing sort of the -- it is what kicks off a tweet storm which then sort of circled
back -- circles back and causes more problems to the president who i think a good lawyer would advice. stop tweeting. >> we have to remember there are multiple investigations. we could spend the rest of the show here, ari, delineating them. there is michael flynn. there is the russian attack on the election. there is possible coordination. and now what we have this is solely created by donald trump is a obstruction of justice case based on -- you know, related to his dismissal of james comey. this is something that white house aides cannot turn away from. there seems to be an investigation of this when rod ros rosenstein was zd aboasked abou, he said he couldn't talk about this because he is looking into. this anybody who is involved in discussions about what to do about this investigation, how to respond, what to do about james comey and, you know, we know
that involves sessions, rod rosenstein. obviously reince priebus and other people in the white house. they're all going to be interviewed. and as we said earlier, michael waldon said earlier, they better tell the truth. otherwise, they become under investigation. >> we're out of time. i want to give you final word, michael. >> when i was in president bush's investigation -- i'm sorry, his white house, there were several investigations. someone needs to at the top a chief of staff say everyone needs to tell the truth. everyone needs to cooperate and everyone needs to take this very, very seriously. you haven't seen that kind of discipline yet. that's why we're seeing these problems. >> michael allen, thank you for joining us. i'll see the others later on "the point" today. with all the talk about a special counsel for russia and the comey memos, how do the inquiries work? what are the agents doing about tomorrow, monday morning? next on "point," we have two seasoned federal investigators
to discuss how comey's memos were written and what comes next. later, bill cosby's trial begins tomorrow. sexual assault advocates say the case will test whether juries is willing to convict based on accuser's testimony alone while cosby and in an interview drawing a link between his case and race. just like the people who own them, every business is different. but every one of those businesses will need legal help as they age and grow. whether it be help starting your business, vendor contracts or employment agreements. legalzoom's network of attorneys can help you every step of the way so you can focus on what you do. we'll handle the legal stuff that comes up along the way. legalzoom. legal help is here. starts with turkey covered in a rich flavorful gravy,e and a crust made from scratch. because she knows that when it's cold outside... it's good food and good company that keep you warm inside. marie callender's. it's time to savor.
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g-men or government agents are how fbi agents are depicted in the movies. they work in the shadows to fight crime. over the past year, of course, the fbi has been in the spotlight first over its nu unusually public approach to the clinton e-mail ands now over a choice made about jim comey with president trump's abrupt firing following by a wide array of evidence that trump did it with russia on his mind. that includes memos written by comey along the way and comey slated to break his silence on this matter under oath in just over a week. everyone is talking about fbi memos. are they norm signal do they suggest trump was doing something inappropriate? and that's why comey had to
write it down? or did all this stuff get written down anyway? >> why has mr. comey sat on it? was he using it for potential blackmail? >> rush limbaugh going down the conspiracy lane. that is an argument we'll hear more of. here are the two questions. what do the comey memos mean and where does the inquiry go now that it's run by a new special counsel, a man comey replaced on the job, robert mueller? let's put the politics aside and get real answers from two federal investigators. joining me now is retired atf agent in charge and former fbi agent leo tatio. leo, whether we spoke just a week ago on "the point" sound we were talking about whether there should be an independent special counsel which is a big point of debate. i just want to -- things have been moving so fast. here's what you said last
sunday. >> does that mean special counsel would help? >> i think if that were defind with certain authorities using fbi resources, i think having that in place right now would probably be the best thing for the fbi. >> that was your view. rod rosenstein has come around to your view. where does the inquiry go from here? jim is going to talk memos. >> right. i think the first things that going to happen is the various investigative agencies including those in congress are going to have to establish rules of the road and how they're going to conduct simultaneous investigations or if those investigations will wait for bob mueller. i think what we'll see in the coming days is meetings about who will do what and whether bob milli mueller's investigation will take president dencedence. it is never good to have
multiple investigations occurring at the same time. you don't want witnesses called for testimony by several agencies because they can give conflicting testimony. and that is snag a prosecutor would like to avoid specially if they have to explain that at trial. so i think the first step for any of these efforts is to make sure that these agencies and these organizations are not stepping all over each other. >> jim, comey wrote it down. does that mean something or nothing? >> it means everything. this is how we operated in the federal service. it's how great detectives operate in city police departments as well and state agencies. you learn this 101 in agent school. he is a long time prosecutor and investigator and he prosecuted many cases brought to him by all the agencies and he knows exactly how this works. and, ari, he carried a pocket notebook. >> is this typical procedure? >> it's typical. very typical. when we interview someone uching
two agents, one asks the questions, the other took notes. if you were alone, you took the notes. if you thought the notes would keep the person from talking, as soon as you walk down, you write the notes down in your car. i would not be surprised to see that jim comey has notes. he wrote down in his. u.s. suv between his white house and the white house headquarters and typed them out. i would times dictate the interview i just had at a person's house sitting in my car in front of their house to the notes are fresh. this is 101 for investigators that want to do it write. we always had agents carry pocket note books. i think comey is going have every conversation with the president written down. he's going to have not only his memorandum, he's going have notes con temperature for atemp sitting at his desk. >> if folks are trying to keep
track, you say it's better to be on one investigative track. is some something that gets wrapped up in weeks, months, a year what mueller is overseeing? >> it depends on how many people are under investigation and how many different tracks they intend to follow. an investigation can take some surprising turns. if this case is simply about whether a limited number of people had relationships or in fact colluded with a number of russian officials, koiit could wrapped up in a couple months f they invoke executive privilege, there may be long legal bat tolls produce that evidence and eventually delay and prolong the investigation. it's all a matter of how much evidence can be gathered with the cooperation of the white house and i think if the cooperation is there, it could be not a long time at all. >> you're saying something so important and since your style is understated, i know you say
it flat line. you said this could be over in as soon as months or as long as years dpenepending on whether t white house takes a cooperative approach to evidence or not. a lot of folks are wondering is this going to consume the first term or not. your view is that may depends on what the house does. thank you as always, gentlemen. >> thank you. bodyguards for turkey's president unleash a beating on protesters. this didn't happen over there. it happened here in washington, d.c. it is the topic to have night's normal or not. up next. and president trump raised this possible solution to some of his problems, jail journalist who's are covering him. we're going to look at that next hour. and snl's weekend update gave a sendoff to some of the president's men. >> obviously been a tough start for the trump administration so we just want to take a moment to look back and remember all the people trump has lost this year. ♪ because you had a bad day taking one down ♪
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a look at what an actual crackdown can look like turkish style but on u.s. soil. this scene began tuesday as protesters gathered at the turkish embarrass's d.c. home where they encountered what some called a brutal assault. 11 injured including a police officer, two arrests. those detained were not responsible for the violence. d.c. police say some of the people involved in those attacks were guards for turkish president who was in town for meetings at the trump white house. now was this just a disruption that got out of control? or guards acting on their own
authority? there are clues to that question. a video shows him in his car observing the situation. "the washington post" reporting before the brawling starts, a man appears to receive instruction from erdogaan who signals to another man who walks to the street and the brawling begins seconds later y would they feel em bold ton bring this crackdown on the visit to the u.s.? human rights advocate and former diplomat samantha power saying that clearly erdogan's guards feel complete impunity drawing on tools of repression they brought from home s this unique to the current trump era? no. this has been normal for ergowan for years cracking down in turkey, 200,000 people have imprisoned or forced out of jobs as well as during his trips to the u.s. during this 2016 appearance at wrobrookings where was to give a speech but his fight his bodyguards got into with protesters and even
brookings employees. and there is evidence that they're trying to affect the trump aides. turkey was the subject of the bizarre election day op-ed which read like it was written about it turkish government itself inserting the u.s. needs to adjust our foreign policy to recognize turkey as a priority and saying we need to seat world from turkey's perspective. the same op-ed blasted a critic of erdogan saying if he were really a moderate, he would not be an exile and nor would he excite the an mus of erdogan and his government. they say four months after this article was published, general flynn filed documents with the federal government indicating he earned $530,000 that may have aided the government of turkey. they didn't disclose this information when the essay was
submitted. flynn is out of the administration but there is no sanction on turkey for the incident this week which has republican leaders upset. >> we should throw their ambassador the hell out of the united states of america. threes not just average people that did this beating. this is erdogan's security detail. >> it is possible he feels like he can get away with this under any administration. it's also possible though that donald trump's foreign policy is following his own rhetoric. >> just trouble-makers. just professional trouble-makers. get her out of here. i'd like to punch him in the face. get her how the! get her out! you know what they did to people like that before? they'd be carried out an a stretcher. i love this. >> so, yes, turkey's approach to protest is normal for that country. the only question is whether it
should be normal when turkish leaders visit us here in the u.s. donald trump is known for many things. apologizing doesn't come to mind. we compare the president to other politicians when it comes to actually accepting accountability and the role that plays in governance. i'm joined by a special panel to dive into that. and a bit later in the show, taxes and the nixon tapes president nixon's former watergate prosecutor explains why that is relevant today. "how to win at business." step one:
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american express open cards can help you take on a new job, or fill a big order or expand your office and take on whatever comes next. find out how american express cards and services can help prepare you for growth at open.com. okay, ready? trump supporters are hailing his middle east trip today as -- a no apology tour" trying to contrast trump's approach while taking a swipe at obama's foreign policy. but that political sniping touches on a more serious question. it is a problem that trump refuses to ever apologize or
take accountability for his own actions? i'm not talk about politics here and whether d.c. pundits think that saying sorry is good optics or trump supporters like that he won't apologize. i'm talking about his responsibility as the head of the federal government. since the election he falsely akusd former president obama of wiretapping, a slanlder case if anyone wanted to sue. he appeared to meddle in the russia inquiry in a front to some fbi agents and trump compared u.s. intelligence officials to nazis. now trump has not apologized to the cia officials or the fbi or obama. it's a very different approach from other government leaders who have resorted to heated rhetoric and then thought better of it. during the iraq war, for example, dick durbin made a reference comparing u.s. military detainee abuse to the nazis and other regimes. after hearing from critics and soldiers, he apologized. >> i'm sorry if anything that i said caused any offense or pain
to those who have such bitter mem ri memories of the holocaust, the greatest moral tragedy of our time. nothing, nothingdemean or dimin moral tragedy. i am also sorry if anything i said in any way cast a negative light on our fine men and women in the military. >> how does donald trump's refusal to ever apologize impact morale or his legitimacy? oliv olivia nuzi. sole dan o'brien and david corn from mothers jones. >> on the intelligence officials he compared to nazis, does it matter that he never apologizes? >> it matters. it's never going to happen. you would be better off wishing for flying rainbow colored unicorns than a trump apology. i wrote about this before the campaign. when he gives paid speeches.
he tells people the key to success is if someone screws you, you screw them over ten times more. he a vengeful fellow who doesn't believe he does anything wrong. he has been asked in trfintervi, do you have any regrets, do you make mistakes? he says no. while hillary clinton apologized for the e-mail server you won't see him apologized for the racist birtherism or anything. >> olivia, there is a view that this is a window into his approach. from "the atlantic," for trump, apologies aren't about resolving conflict or fostering relationship or even setting the record straight. like so much of what he does they're about besting someone. >> for someone like donald trump, self-reflection is weakness. he is on old man at this point.
he is very unlikely to change. if we are sitting around waiting for him to apologize for anything he's done since taking office or before we'll be waiting a long time. the only thing he has apologized for was after the "access hollywood" tape came out. >> the theme seems to be this is a problem but it's never going to happen. >> it's working great. >> i am not asking whether it is something that people like politically. i am asking about governor naan >> it's charming that you're wondering if he'll transition into his responsibility as the leader of the free world. i actually think this is more of an optics question in the way he thinks about it. the question is is it working. two things have happened. about ten years ago you started seeing elected officials on the left and right, actually, not just donald trump, certainly,
double down. they would say something crazy. and remember one year we called it the summer of the double down. they would not apologize. they would just stick to it. two things have happened. one, the news cycle moves so quickly that, if you can survive the original freakout that everybody has, you actually can survive it. number two, audiences are more splintered. >> to follow up with you on that, i wonder if the media's willingness to cover everything as a game is affecting the rules of the game and rewarding that approach. >> certainly i think the media plays a role in it, but just the idea that we will move on to a new story in two days, so if you can survive the two days, you're good. that's not, again, just for donald trump. i think there are a people who will say something and they also are speaking to their audience. they're telegraphing a message to their audience. the idea that he doesn't ever back down and doesn't ever
apologize is critical to the supporters of donald trump. interview them and they'll tell you, you know what i like about him. he doesn't speak like a politician, and he doesn't ever say he is sorry. that is working for him. >> i get it. i can't say this enough. i don't care whether a very negative feature is somewhat popular. to broaden it out, david, you know, president obama at the correspondents' dinner would joke about, well, what if we use this politico day of sorry, who is up, who is down during the civil rights war. there are other things that are more important. in war and peace it's more important your ability to course correct than whether somebody likes you for being stubborn. robert mcnamara long afterward reassessing vietnam. >> we have the kennedy and johnson administrations who participated in the decisions on vietnam, acted according to what we thought were the principles and values of this nation. we made our decisions in the
light of those values. and yet, today, with hindsight, i believe we were wrong, terribly wrong. >> david. >> well, you know, you have george w. bush and the iraq war, hasn't admitted he was wrong, has said he would still make the same decisions the way he made them at the time. i do think donald trump is a special case. very, very special, special, special case. i don't think he has the ability to even consider that he has done something wrong and let alone talk about it, let alone see how that would lead to a better resolution down the road. and the thing is people around him, i don't believe they can tell him that he's made a mistake. i don't think they can tell him he made a mistake when he said what he said about james comey to the russians. if you don't have a person who at least in private can wonder if he's done something wrong, with that much power, it becomes an even bigger problem. >> olivia and soledad.
>> david is largely right, but he can be convinced at times. we saw, again, with the "access hollywood" tape that it would be beneficial of him to apologize. the problem is he would never come to the conclusion that it would be the right thing to do. i think that's what we're talking about here. he is not someone who looks inward and assesses himself and thinks in that way. i think that's probably pretty alarmingly a bad quality for a leader to have. >> right. >> soledad, briefly. >> already people are assessing his speech as he sounded presidential. right? because that is what they measure it on. did it sound presidential. is that the bar. so you might not want to look at how we measure these things, but how the people who vote for you, the people who support you, the people who will walk away from you if they don't believe you are going to support donald trump, that's what they measure. how long does the story last. does it matter if he really apologizes and where does it go
from here. does he sound presidential? >> we've had spirited debate on the panel but it sounds like everyone agrees that, if you are waiting for a trump apology to paraphrase kanye west you'll have to wait for the 35th of never-uary. fired fbi director james comey going to break his silence. what does that mean? donald trump and richard nixon, a connection between the two on taxes. jailing journalists. could president trump make that threat a reality?
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but we've got the get tdigital tools to help. now with xfinity's my account, you can figure things out easily, so you won't even have to call us. change your wifi password to something you can actually remember, instantly. add that premium channel, and watch the show everyone's talking about, tonight. and the bill you need to pay? do it in seconds. because we should fit into your life, not the other way around. go to xfinity.com/myaccount i am ari melber. welcome back to our continuing coverage on "the point." fired fbi director james comey set to break his silence in public and under oath in just over a week. what he might say about the president and what it means for russia. before firing comey, trump reportedly raising the issue of jailing journalists. will his next fbi director be
more willing to follow through on that threat? comparisons between trump and nixon have been coming all over the place. we have one you may have not heard much about. it involves taxes. all coming up this hour. the chaos of the trump presidency hovering around his first presidential trip abroad. while it might seem like an opportunity for geopolitical leap-frogging, moving forward, trying to leave the mess behind, the trump administration is dealing with major fallout some argue is largely created by the man himself in the oval office, with an image of a white house without direction. today the president trying to focus his agenda on fighting terrorism at a speech in saudi arabia. >> this is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people all in the name of religion. there can be no coexistence with this violence. >> with special counsel robert mueller investigating the white house and possible russian
connections there is a question over whether the trump administration will have the discipline or even support on capitol hill to move forward with a robust agenda. mueller headed the fbi under obama and bush. trump fired james comey and told russian officials according to the "new york times" that comey was a nut job. comey says he'll testify to the senate intel committee about russia publicly and under oath. i'm joined by john harwood, david corn, joan walsh, and doreen warren of the roosevelt institute. john harwood, joining us new. you have seen a lot in washington in your work for the cnbc and the "new york times." have you ever seen a week like this? >> no. never seen a president like this either. he is in uncharted territory in terms of his brazen willingness to not only do things that are
path-breaking in terms of the norms of presidential behavior, but to boast about those things. and the idea that a president would tell top russian officials, which is what we learned the president had done this week, that the fbi director that he fired, the fbi director of the united states of america, was a nut-job and now the pressure is off on a russia investigation. none of us have seen anything like that. >> joan walsh, take a look at what sam nunberg a controversial trump aide but one who knows the inner circle, and there are not a lot of people who have worked in it, says trump is being poorly served. trump feels he can't trust anyone around him. there is a focused effort to keep the original trump people from joining the white house. he is surrounded by people he doesn't know. under attack from all sides. he was going to hire the best people. >> he was going to hire the best people. all the original faces have been driven out in some kind of
internal warfare. it's not like they dis'periappe or had a family emergency, thes people play to kill and drive one another out and it's nobody's fault but donald trump. maybe sam nunberg will get another shot. maybe chris christie will come back and join us. maybe corey lewandowski. it's fascinating. this is the way he likes to be staffed, obviously. >> doreen, this is a management style. >> it's not governance. it's a perfect example of how you can't treat the white house like being a ceo of a corporation. because there are different kinds of constraints and incentives for people. this is a broader problem for the republican party. this is a broader brand problem for the republican party because it's not just trump who is being self-destructive in his lack of
governance, the incompetence of people around him. they still have hundreds of appointments still to be filled. senior administrative key roles. with the lack of ability to pass legislation and the whole of the republican party will go down with trump unless they can turn this around and show that they can actually govern. >> we get news at all hours. axios with a scoop that the new trump budget may try to slash entitlements by $1.7 trillion. if you are a steve bannon type that's great news. but if you live here on planet earth a press release with a number in it doesn't do anything. there has to be a question among republicans about whether any of this is more than repurposes press releases if he can't get it done. >> well, there is a tremendous question about donald trump's competence. and stability. he needs to, you know -- it's not whether he is a ceo of the white house or not, but it's
whether he can do anything in a competent manner. and we see again and again, from assessing reality, as to how many people attended the inauguration ceremonies to what he tried -- the explanations he tried to give or had the white house try to give about his dismissal of james comey. the guy just can't get things right. he can't get them straight. he didn't understand how to work on the health care bill. when he had members of the republican party come in, he said, i don't give, you know what, about the little stuff. i am being kind here for family tv. but -- so he doesn't care about details. he doesn't understand how the government works. everything is more complicated. health care. it's complicated. north korea, it's kind of complicated. so we start with a person without those skills to do the job, and it almost doesn't matter who the staff is. >> well, and john harwood, on that point, i want to read one other domestic piece of policy.
politico saying trump told adviser he wants to end payments to key obamacare subsdays. many adviser oppose the move because a huge premium spike would cause people to blame the white house. according to policy, does donald trump have an analysis there of what it means to take one of the blocks out of obamacare without another plan or does that not reflect how he's looking at it. >> i am sure donald trump has not done any deep analysis of health care policy. his danger is that he seems to believe -- and he went out and said the other day at a news conference. obamacare is dead. it's not going to be there anymore. he owns health care policy at this point. he is the head of the government. if they don't pass a replacement bill and there is a very good chance that they won't be able to, he has to figure out what to do with the mess that's left behind if he has encouraged
insurance companies to think they're not going to get paid, you start to have a real death spiral, not the madimaginary on people have been talking about on the other side. >> i am sympathetic to republican sources who say this isn't our republican party, he hijacked it. the tv press gave him a ton of attention and helped him do it. in other words, there is more than one republican party. at the end of the day in american politics, aren't you assessed by what your party does when it has unitarian control of both branches of government? >> absolutely. it's now trumpcare. whatever it is. the idea that he's going after entitlements, ari, when he promised -- that's the thing he promised. that's what made him a new and populist leader who was going to help the white working class base that had been left behind
by paul ryan republicans. he was ushering in a new approach to domestic and foreign policy. now when we do pay attention to domestic policy, he is breaking promises and hurting the very people he promised to help. everything he does seems almost tailor-made to hurt his base. it's not just an accident. it's crazy. >> doirian, when i worked as a staffer in the senate, there was one rule every senator agreed upon, which is don't make me take a tough vote if it's not going to matter. that, with regard to obamacare and with regard to what they're floating on the budget, does not seem to be the operating principle of the white house. >> there will be a lot of tough votes that have to be taken by republicans, not just in congress but as well when you think of medicaid and the attack on medicaid as part of the repeal of the aca. add in food stamps, a range of entitlement programs, that we used to think those were -- you could get rid of those if you racialized them and told stories about, well -- that's not the case anymore.
the game is different. there are white working class and middle class people who have been turning out to their congressional meetings and meeting their legislators saying hands off medicaid, food stamps. idealogically we may want a smaller government but in terms of this particular program, i want that and don't you dare touch it. that's the box trump has put them in with this overzealousness on repealing the aca. and really medicaid is an interesting story. because the expansion of it under obamacare was brilliant politics for this moment. >> john harwood, the last thing i wanted to get you on is a non-partisan view of whether the u.s. cares that its election may have been impacted by a foreign adversary. here is steny hoyer on that. >> what is russia doing not only to undermine the u.s. election but what is russia doing to undermine elections in the west? democracies. so it's very important, i think,
that we move ahead with a special commission, which is a bipartisan commission similar to the 9/11 commission. i think that will be good for the country and good for democracy. >> john, that's one argument. but it was the other big piece of news today that national security adviser mcmaster wouldn't say whether the russians were confronted about this in the meeting, which i thought was just bizarre. >> obviously republicans and the trump administration in particular have an interest in downplaying the seriousness of how our democracy was attacked in an election where they did very well. i don't think the average american is very focused on the idea of what the russians did and we've got to do something about it. so i am not sure there is going to be, in the end, the public opinion to propel that kind of a creation of a commission. however, i do think the fact that robert mueller is heading that investigation means that that's going to be a very serious investigation.
i see that as probably, along with the senate in particular intelligence committee investigation, as the principle vehicles for exploring and then figuring out what to do about russian interference. >> right, and what a difference a week makes. a week ago it was a wide-open question whether there would be an inquiry of that nature and now there is. >> joan walsh, david corn and doirian, thank you. donald trump didn't mention in the speech to the muslim world today but his travel ban goes on. it is still wrapped up in court. we'll look at when we might get a ruling, as soon as tomorrow. also, the connection between trump and nixon that you may not have heard much about. a watergate prosecutor is here to explain. tax returns. if you were looking for an alternative to trump in 2020 it may have been a joke but it may have arrived. >> starting tonight i am running for the president of the united states. [ applause ] >> i have to tell you, i have already chosen my running mate.
xfinity x1 gives you exclusive access to the best of the billboard music awards just by using your voice. the billboard music awards. sunday, may 21st eight seven central only on abc. i have never profited, never profited, from public service. i have earned every cent. and in all of my years of public life, i have never obstructed justice. and i think, too, that i can say that, in my years of public life, that i welcome this kind of examination, because people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. well, i am not a crook. i have earned everything i've got. >> i am not a crook. obviously one of the most famous lines of the nixon presidency, and often misquoted. did you know nixon wasn't actually talking about the water burglary there? he was talking about taxes. an issue that continues to trail
president trump. historians note nixon had questionable tax practices like the half million dollar deduction he took for transferring presidential papers to the federal government's national archives. but that deduction actually expired when nixon took office in '69, which meant he couldn't take it under the current law at the time. so, he tried to take it under the old law by having a lawyer falsify the records so it looked like he had made the donation earlier. according to bloomberg news, that allowed nixon to pay less than $1,000 on an income of over $200,000. then nixon fought to keep his tax returns private which makes some sense now that history shows what he was hiding. a secretive approach to taxes certainly rings a bell today. >> i am not releasing the tax returns because they're under audit. >> he's not going to release his tax returns. we litigated this all through the election. >> i won. i mean, i became president. no, i don't think they care at all. >> it's often said that trump is the first president in the
modern era who won't release his tax returns and that is a perfectly legal choice of his, by the way. trump also, though, is the first president since nixon who has tried so hard to conceal them. and as a special counsel strengthens this ongoing investigation at least into trump's associates, some are probing the parallels between these two situations. during the nixon investigation, watergate prosecutor nick ackerman was handling that nixon tax issue. and there were many avenues for the special inquiry but ackerman was building a tax case against nixon that could have proceeded eventually when he left office. nixon was ultimately pardoned after he resigned and ackerman explains how generally these investigations can end up going all kinds of different roads. what are the parallels today? well, on "the point" the right man is here to answer that question. former watergate prosecutor nick acker man. thanks for being here. >> thank you for having me. >> this is a part of your
investigation that didn't get a lot of attention over the years because of all the other things that brought nixon down. but what did you find specifically on his taxes? >> well, i think what we found here, the critical piece, was that he back-dated a deed. he had a deed back-dated to make it look as though he had provided this contribution of papers prior to the passage of the tax reform act in 1969. all presidents from harry truman up had taken advantage of the fact that you could deduct a gift of papers. and what he did differently was, in 1969 congress changed that law, and not only did he back-date the deed, but he also lobbied pretty heavily to try and keep the law the way it was so he could continue to take that tax deduction. >> you were a prosecutor looking into this. how did you get on this info? >> well, i think it came out first because the general services administration had
found that there was something funny about the deed that was given. people had the documents simply to categorize them at one point, but it wasn't until later that they realized that this back-dated deed suddenly showed up with a strange date on it that made absolutely no sense. >> so, if you were investigator -- in the investigative team now under mueller, would you think they should look at the taxes? >> well, i think there is some direct parallels here in the sense that, look, nixon was looking for ways to minimize paying as little tax as possible. one of the ways to do that was to make these contributions of papers. and the one way around all that, ironically, was that by putting in place a taping system in the white house, you could donate tapes, not papers, but tapes. that was an exception to the '69 tax reform act. so that gave nixon the ability -- >> hold on. you're saying part of the reason the taping system existed, which led to the fight at the supreme
court u.s. v. nixon which led to the impeachment proceedings was that he wanted not just recordings but a tax break? >> that was the whole point of it. having the tapes, he could take certain portions over the years and donate them to the u.s. government. not illegal under the '69 tax reform act. >> do you think that's widely understood in the history? >> i don't think so. >> that's phenomenal as a piece of the pirrtheory. he has never confirmed that. you're saying that's where the trail led. >> yes. the irony is enormous. this is what brought him down at the end. >> unbelievable. i want to ask about leaks because we talk about parallels. donald trump has a sixth sense for certain things. he picks up reagan slogans and the lindberg slogans. listen to nixon trying to change the entire conversation in 1973 back to leaks. >> the leaks that have come out
on this particular matter have convicted him in advance, and it is that particular point that concerns him, and it concerns me as well. as a matter of fact, in the strongest terms, i have spoken to the attorney general about this matter. he shares my view. he has taken personal charge of the investigation with regard to leaks. >> why do you think presidents under fire go back to these leaks? >> well, because it's another way to move the conversation in a different direction. look, it's not only the leaks that are the parallel here. but it's also going after the press. for publishing the leaks. look what nixon did with the "new york times." he sued them to try to keep them from publishing the pentagon papers. trump has threatened not only to sue journalists, to put them in jail and to change the libel laws. the parallels are absolutely on the money.
to go back to the taxes. one of the things that we have with trump is that back -- the tax return released by the "new york times" clearly shows that he was trying to take advantage of other people's money in order not to pay taxes over a long period of time. >> mr. trump in business. >> yes. he claimed almost a $1 billion loss on his three gambling casinos in new jersey. he didn't put up that money. that wasn't his money. he set that up so, over a period of time, he could take that loss -- >> although in legal fairness to him, he has been highly audited under different administrations and there hasn't been a formal finding of tax wrong doing. >> nobody has looked at what he originally put on his tax returns to come up with the loss and how he did it. >> whether you went back on the tax returns, you may find something nefarious. to pause this, on "the point" will you come back because
you've taught us something today. >> certainly. in the second round of litigation, something else we want to make sure is on your radar, a travel ban. a ruling may come as soon as tomorrow from the ninth circuit of appeals. they heard neil koch suggesting that the ban is dog whistle for anti-muslim trump supporters. >> when he issued the first executive order he read the title of the executive order, looked up at the camera and said, we all know what that means. indeed, when he issued both executive orders he left on his website that very statement about the complete and total shut-down of muslims, a statement that just happened to disappear moments before the fourth circuit argument last week. >> joining me now is ambassador marc ginsberg, former u.s. ambassador to morocco and middle east policy adviser. i wanted to have you on to discuss the travel ban. at this juncture, your view not only of its status in court, which is probably going all the
way to the supreme court, but how does this play in the contrast to the president's speech today? >> it's fascinating because, ari, here is the president in saudi arabia, which, by the way, was one of the countries left off of the travel ban, and leaders from around the middle east and muslim world, many of whom have the travel ban imposed upon them but which now has been, as you know, temporarily set aside by the court. and the juxtaposition of the president in saudi arabia, being watched by his supporters in the united states, and not mentioning a travel ban or the travel ban coming up i think is a testament in some respects to the fact that this was a real sop to his domestic supporters but not really having any measurable practical impact on the fight against counter extremism or terrorism. because when it first came out i even went on this network and argued that, no matter what may
be the intent, the practical impact of the travel ban is that its first of all inappropriate constitutionally and won't have any impact on barring isis fighters from making their way to the united states. >> it's interesting, ambassador, you mentioned something really significant which is, what does he choose to emphasize before different audiences. clearly some forethought there. this was also raised directly in the legal proceedings about has the president ever backed down from the older anti-muslim rhetoric. his attorney at the doj who will probably argue this before the supreme court, currently the top lawyer they have, making a vigorous rebuttal to what the judges were presenting. >> has the president ever disavowed his campaign statements? has he ever stood up and said, i said before i wanted to ban all members of the islamic faith from entering the united states of america. i was wrong.
>> the president clarified that what he was talking about were islamic terrorist groups and the countries that shelter or sponsor them and, over time, he and his adviser clarified that he was focused on groups like isis and al qaeda. >> you were a diplomat. you study language as i do, ambassador. the key word there, clarified. could they argue that the president continued to clarify in his address today when on paper he said things that match obama and bush. he said, terror groups are not islam writ large. >> when you get on air force one and travel to saudi arabia and have an objective that exceeds the battle against islamic extremism, you engage in an enormous amount of political correctness. and the president was full of political correctness today in riyadh. i mean, there was nothing in his speech that reaffirmed the travel ban. indeed president obama or president clinton could have
delivered the very address that president trump delivered. i watched it. and he made very valid points. but the problem, of course, with the travel ban, is that it doesn't solve the ultimate problem that all of us understand, which is, if you are going to get rid of islamic extremism and fight the battle against isis, a travel ban that doesn't even -- or didn't apply to the visa waiver program, where dual nationals were able to admit to the united states -- i remember saying that you could drive a truck through this travel ban because dual nationals from, for example, britain and pakistan who carry a british passport could have made it into the united states. >> which is why it looked initially sloppy, which hurt them in court. whether the later foreign policy will help them is one of the fascinating parts of this if you want to give the benefit of the doubt. ambassador ginsberg. appreciate your expertise. we open up ari's inbox and answer your questions.
e-mail me @firstname.lastname@example.org. the white house briefings may be less crowded if trump gets his way on the idea of jailing journalists. the sexual assault trial of bill cosby begins tomorrow. why he is bringing up race. a report on that at this hour as well. the homeowner was outraged. luckily the geico insurance agency had helped her with homeowners insurance. she got all her shingles replaced. hansel and gretel were last seen eating their way through the candy cane forest. call geico and see how easy it is to switch and save on homeowners insurance. ykeep you sidelined.ng that's why you drink ensure. with 9 grams of protein and 26 vitamins and minerals. for the strength and energy to get back to doing... ...what you love. ensure. always be you.
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welcome back to ari's inbox where we answer questions from you the viewers. the first question on twitter, i would like to know how attorney/client privilege works for white house counsel. could don mcgahn share info. the white house privilege is like anyone. if you have a lawyer, most of your conversations are confidential and privileged. a lawyer has a legal obligation to keep them private. generally white house counsel don mcghan will keep trump's secrets. there are exceptions. a federal appeals court ruled it couldn't use privilege from the grand juries. it was the former white house counsel john deen who gamusly
testified against his client, president richard nixon. as for privileged claims, nixon mostly waived the privilege which allowed dean to completely testify. there was even a transcript of the white house memo on the senate testimony, and he said, dean, told the president, if i'm going to go up there, i'm going to testify. remember, though, the white house does have stronger secrecy powers than a typical attorney-client privilege. there is executive privilege to shield all kinds of info or testimony. the big question is what the trump white house will do. this is tom sloan on twitter saying, what happened to the, quote, essential muslim ban, the 90 days passed, i thought it was supposed to protect us against terrorism. tom is writing on twitter and obviously being a little sarcastic. the 90 days have passed. whether or not the travel ban targets muslims is itself an issue the courts haven't decided. it's an open legal question. i tweeted right back that the judges blocked the ban so the
time line is paused and that the ninth and fourth circuit could rule on it any day, including tomorrow. in the meantime, the trump administration is exploring some other ways to tighten the immigration vetting. the courts, of course, blocked the travel ban. so the administration is blocked from efforts to tighten vetting in any way that could discriminate based on religion. they can still do other studies and tighten vetting in other ways while the whole thing moves through the courts. e-mail me or tweet using #thepoint, and we might answer your question on next week's show or even beforehand. still ahead, jailing journalists. a topic president trump brought up with fbi director james comey. according to his memos. could the new fbi director follow through on the threat? should they be confirmed if they're willing to. a special panel will talk about what reporters call "a chilling threat." eering.
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inquiry. the story has been so big it has overshadowed trump's meddling into a related field, the free press. take the now-famous february meeting between trump and fbi director comey. before trump even started talking russia, he began the discussion by condemning leaks saying comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information. that's according to a comey associate who read the memo. the u.s. government does not imprison reporters for writing about information that leaks out of the government. under administrations in both parties that kind of reporting has been considered protected by the first amendment. whether trump knew it or not, he was pushing the nation's chief law enforcement officer to do something that itself is probably unconstitutional. the executive editor of the "washington post" who rarely criticizes any president in his role as an objective stuaeward, said trump is different than the past tussles with the press
because trump is backing actually prosecuting journalists directly for receiving and publishing information which is of course the life-blood of journalism. there are no reports that the fbi has begun pursuing reporters in response to the meeting. let's be clear. i want to emphasize this. right now there are signs that authorities are already getting the message. this month police arrested a reporter for asking trump's hhs secretary a question about obamacare. secretary tom price then voiced support for the charges which carry up to six months in jail. or this week, federal security guards physically restrained a reporter from posing a question to a commissioner on the fcc. these crack-downs may not hold up in court but free speech advocates say they're designed to chill and intimidate journalism. that may be what president trump wants. is he alone? i will show you this. the top republican on the judiciary committee, chuck grassl grassley saying he wants to make
sure it doesn't happen again. there is no good reason to put hands on a reporter who is doing his or her job. soledad o'brien and john harwood are back and i welcome first amendment attorney lee levine who wrote a book on the issue. lee, in your view from a fact-finding or investigative perspective, what is the significance of the president saying this to the fbi director in what he thought was a private setting? >> well, ari, the president said a lot of things similar to that publicly during the campaign. and i think a lot of us thought it was just bluster and figured that it was designed to whip up his crowds and whip up his base. what's chilling about him saying it to the fbi director in private means, or at least suggests, that he is actually serious about it. that's concerning. >> soledad let me read from a reporter with the public news service in west virginia, dan
hymen. he says about his interaction with the trump health and human services secretary. i went to the capitol. do my job, asking a question. police took my phone, handcuffed me, fingerprinted me and sent me off in an orange jump suit. i was released from jail seven hours later. some people get very metaphysical about this and say, well, it's just words. these things are not always upheld in court. what about where we already are, okay? it's 6:41 p.m. on the east coast on a sunday and i am reading to you about a reporter in an orange jumpsuit for asking a question of a trump cabinet official. where are we right now? >> it's very scary, but i would argue that it part of the continuum. i am not particularly shocked. i think you have step one, declared the press the enemy of the people. that's been done. step two, make sure on the campaign trail you literally pen journalists in so that you can turn the crowd on them and point them out, and the crowd can literally turn around and chant things to the reporters who, in
many cases would describe how afraid they were, some cases having to actually be escorted out because they were really worried about their security. and you establish a culture in which people think that journalists not only are not there to serve them but that actually journalists are the enemy. none of this really surprises me. i think the fcc case as well, where the apology said something like, i was freezing and starving and that's why that happened. it was very bizarre. so none of these things make a lot of sense, i think, but also they are part of this longer continuum of a president who clearly hates the press and knows how to leverage that, again, to reach his voters. >> let's be clear. i'll get to john in a minute. lee, one more question on this, to soledad's point. the constitution protects your right to hate the press. bring it on. this is an open society. the question is what does the constitution say about a president asking the fbi director to, quote, put journalists in jail, if the
comey memo is true? >> well, the constitution, obviously, protects the freedom of the press, and the president is not any person. he is free to hate the press, but he is not free to use the levers of government to punish the press, especially if he is punishing the press because he doesn't like what they write about him. that's the core of what the first amendment protects. if there were ever prosecution against a journalist i can assure you that among the exhibits the defense would put in in defense of reporter would be all the statements the president has made about his desire to jail journalists for doing their jobs. >> john harwood. >> ari, let me put it this way. start at the end of the spectrum. i don't believe that donald trump is going to be able to shut down the press, and i think the evidence of the last several weeks is that he definitely will not. he is long on bluster. i take lee's point about the private -- saying it in private is different from the bluster in
public. i still remember the first time i ever spoke to donald trump on the telephone. he was threatening to sue me before i had practically told him my name. i do think donald trump has shown in a series of issues that, when he comes up against strong adversaries he often backs down directly. he is not a popular president. his political support among the republican party is getting softer, so i don't think he has got a free hand to do whatever he wants. if he tries to change the libel laws, for example, i think that's going to be a non-starter in congress. so i -- i am concerned he is not going to be a very transparent president, and the two examples you cited in west virginia and at the fcc, those are concerning. i don't know whether they're related to sort of common signals sent and received by officials. but i am fairly sanguine in the end about the ability of the
press to stand up for itself. >> lee, what do you say to the argument that is more artfully made, not, of course, by necessarily president trump but by others who say, well, the face of the media is changing and institutions like wikileaks may have at one time looked a little more like a web publisher and now look more arguably like a handmaden to espionage. >> the espionage is the only thing that vaguely applies to the situation the president is talking about. allows for the prosecution of spying. what it doesn't provide for is the prosecution of people who are doing what anyone would recognize is journalism. whether they are a card-carrying member of the "new york times" or the "washington post" or something else, if they're doing journalism, the espionage act should not touch them. >> soledad, final thought? >> i am not afraid. i do not feel afraid that somehow, even with the
president's efforts, i think what has been said is very true. the president often, when bluster comes back to his bluster, he backs down. and as a journalist -- most of the journalists i know -- i think they are well aware of what's been going on but are not afraid. >> do you think that this has the potential also to backfire on him? >> i think, if it's in a list of things that are going wrong, i think right now the white house is dealing with a lot of scandal. i think it's a distraction. i think it's problematic and certainly doesn't help in the long list of things that they're also dealing with. didn't get much coverage. >> it's not a deliberate distraction. this is something he secretly said to the fbi. >> that he's been saying all along. >> about jailing them? >> about hating the press and how can he turn people against them. so yeah. i am not -- i guess, as a reporter, i do not feel afraid. i think it's obviously concerning, as was said, as we see these two examples. i am not sure how much came down
from on high and the president or how much did they feel like this is something he would condone. i personally do not feel like i am afraid. >> it sounds like you have a good attitude. >> i don't think there is another alternative. >> should we get john harwood on the record. is he afraid. >> i am with soledad. i'm not afraid. i don't think most of our colleagues are either. >> strong words from journalists. soledad o'brien, john harwood and lee levine. up next. the bill cosby trial starts tomorrow. we have a preview about what to expect and what bill cosby calls a racial power structure that he argues is behind his prosecution. this is a story about mail and packages.
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bill cosby begins tomorrow. andrea says ko s cosby drugged molested her in 2004. a rare interview this week telling radio host michael smerconish that there's an effort to attack cosby publicly. >> so, the piling on, so to speak, is a way, certainly an oppressive, impressive way, to get public opinion to come to the other side. >> are you telling me that they're all lying? >> you know better than that. >> now, perhaps previewing the arguments his lawyers will make in court, cosby also hinting that regardless of the race of his multiple accusers, he argues there's a wider racial power structure aligned against him. >> but your accusers are both
black and white. >> well, let me put it to you this way. when you look at the power structure and when you look at individuals, there are some people who can very well be motivated by whether or not they're going to work. or whether or not they might be able to get back at someone. >> cosby's team has publicly denied all of these allegations. joining me to discuss what will be a big case is criminal defense attorney clarine irish. and first we have a report from nbc's ron allen who is live outside the courthouse with a preview. ron, what happens tomorrow? >> reporter: well, jury selection, ari, and there are some 3,000 people who've been sent petitions. the judge is going to bring
about 125 people to the courthouse every day. remember, this is happening in pittsburgh. 300 miles or so from montgomery county outside of philadelphia where bill cosby lives and where this alleged crime happened. this is happening because the defense was complaining so vehemently about the negative publicity happening very close to where the crime happened although this, of course, has been a national case, but here, they hope to find a more diverse jury pool. it's a big city, pittsburgh. they hope to find not just racial diversity, but economic diversity as well. and that's a big thing because this case is about one woman's allegation, one woman's charges, but those 50 or so other women who have made allegations will be in the background. it's going to be very difficult, most people would agree, to find jurors who have not heard something about bill cosby's accusers. >> absolutely. absolutely. ron -- >> reporter: not a lot of detail. >> you and i were discussing this in our preparations today before we were live on tv together, and i was saying to you, how do you find someone
with an open mind about bill cosby right now? >> reporter: well, some theories i've heard is they may look for older people who remember bill cosby as cliff huxtable, fat albert, and all that. they, i think, want people of color who can empathize or understand some of the other arguments bill cosby has made. they don't want too many women, don't want too many young people who don't know -- don't know him at all. it's really a very difficult thing. they want people, perhaps, who are open to conspiracy theories, people who feel like they've been aggrieved at work is another theory i've heard. so, it's a tough thing, but we hear this judge is very efficient. he's going to move this process along. the jurors will be sequestered which is another very unusual thing. again, they live here, but they'll be back in philadelphia. what's expected to be a two to three-week trial. very interesting and of course, again, one case against bill cosby. this is the only case, the only criminal case, that he will face. ari? >> ron allen reporting on this. i'll be working with you on
covering this case. thank you. we'll be seeing more of you. appreciate it. turning to carine, this is not a typical case. take celebrity out of it, you don't usually have a prosecution of an alleged sex crime this many years afterward. >> right. there's reason for that because the evidence is off staten stal. there's no forensic evidence in this case. this is vareally going to be a said/she said case many years after the fact. so that's going to be tough for the prosecution. >> when you hear the defendant in this case bring up race, what do you think that signals here? before the trial started? >> well, it signals a strategy. we know there's constitutional racism in the criminal justice system, racial buy quiabias. is that the reason behind this case? i doubt it, but they're certainly going to use that and use evidence of racial bias. it sounds like to push this narrative that mr. cosby's being treated unfairly.
>> data shows overwhelming racial bias and how these prosecutions both occur and sometimes when they seem to go light. here's bill cosby's daughter saying "my father's being punished by a society that believes black men rape women. boys will be boys when white men are accused." even if that is sometimes the case, does that help address the legal question of whether bill cosby is guilty in this trial? >> well, it certainly doesn't explain why in 2005 the d.a. declined to prosecute this case, it doesn't fit that narrative. and so the fact that -- >> he once got off easy, you're saying. >> yes, exactly. and so, many years later if they're going to pursue a narrative that there is racial bias, it may be tough to sell. given that -- >> you think jurors will be skeptical of the idea this isn't going after bill cosby because of race? >> it's a part -- let's look at it, the reality is he's part of
the power structure and these women are going to be -- many of them who have come forward -- >> right. >> -- belatedly said the reason why they didn't is because he's part of the power structure. >> corrine irish, that's what we'll be watching for. a big case. that wraps up our show on "the point" here. i'm ari melber. thanks for tuning in. "dateli "dateline" is next. marie's turkey pot pie starts with turkey covered in a rich flavorful gravy, and a crust made from scratch. because she knows that when it's cold outside... it's good food and good company that keep you warm inside. marie callender's. it's time to savor.
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